MANILA — Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno on Thursday said he is in favor of discontinuing offshore gaming operations since the social costs outweigh revenue that has seen a decline in the recent months.
During a hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance, Sen. Imee Marcos asked the Philippine economic team whether or not the tax revenues generated by Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators or POGOS were still worth it.
Tax collections from POGOs declined to P1.55 billion in the first half of 2022, she said.
"What are your thoughts on POGO. Are we going to expand it or shall we just leave it as is? Or like E-sabong, ban it entirely for failure to regulate it adequately? By and large ang dami nang umalis eh (many have left)," the senator said.
Diokno said the total revenue in 2021 declined to P3.9 billion from its peak of P7.2 billion in 2020.
"If you ask my personal opinion on this, let’s discontinue the program. Because of the social cost of POGO... if you have to ask me, I am in favor of discontinuing," the Finance chief said.
Diokno and the rest of the economic team were at the Senate to defend the proposed P5.268-trillion 2023 national budget.
POGOs pose a risk for the country's reputation, he added.
"People will ask why are they going to the Philippines, it is discontinued in China, discontinued there. Why are they going to the Philippines? Maybe because we are loose, we are not strict on our rules. So meron tayong reputational risk," Diokno said.
Sen. Sonny Angara agreed. He said, "This aspect of lawlessness that we are giving to the rest of the world is not worth whatever we are collecting, which appears to be quite meager between PAGCOR and BIR it is not really a big deal."
"It must be meager for the Finance Secretary to say we do not need it," he added.
Many POGOs, like all other businesses closed during the COVID-19 pandemic due to mobility restrictions. In order to be allowed to reopen, they must settle their tax liabilities. This rule is among the reasons for the "exodus" or exit of operators who chose to set up shop elsewhere.